How do we secure the safety of Pope Francis?
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - January 12, 2015 - 12:00am

After what happened in Paris, we are worried. While the whole nation waits with much expectations and excitement the final arrival of Pope Francis to our country, the President and his security officials and advisers are having sleepless nights, grappling with their worst nightmare. They worry a lot on how to make sure that the Supreme Pontiff will be absolutely and totally secured from all kinds of threats, from the leftists, from the terrorists, and from plain crazy and stupid attention-getters who may wish to perpetuate their names as the ultimate villain and icon of evil. By this time, all systems must already be in place, and to paraphrase the President himself, there is no room for the smallest mistake.

While we, Cebuanos, have been praying hard that the Pope will find time to visit our province and city, on the second thought, perhaps, it is a blessing in disguise that Cebu has not been included as part of the papal itinerary. For such an eventuality would demand the most intricate and prudent and painstaking planning and organizing, with uncompromising attention to the minutest details, minute to minute and for every movement of the Holy Father. That requires hard work and a big budget as we need to conduct an expensive and intensive intelligence operations. We would have needed thousands of top caliber security operatives and personnel, with combat training in Israel and the US.

The Pope is not only the head of the biggest religious group in the whole world. He is also a head of state and head of government of maybe  the smallest city state in the globe, but a sovereign state nevertheless. The slightest and most harmless but untoward incident that may befall on him during his state and ecclesiastical visit would be a grave embarrassment to the President and the whole nation. It would be the ultimate breach of protocol if our chief executive, who is also the Commander-in-chief of all the armed forces of the country, could not totally and absolutely guarantee the safety of a visiting head of state. The principle of command responsibility weighs heavily on the shoulders of President Noy.

There are three most crucial stages of the security challenges in the papal visit. First is the arrival at the airport. Remember what happened to Senator Ninoy Aquino. And when the Pope appears from the plane's exit door, he will be standing and open from almost all directions. Second, the constant movements of the Pope from the airport to the hotel to Malacanan and to the airport again when he goes to Tacloban. These are the most difficult phase of the security arrangements. Third is the mass in Luneta with millions expected to attend. This is indeed very difficult for the security forces. Fourth is the mass in UST again with millions around him. And lastly, the trip to Tacloban. These are a series of very difficult challenges that the security operatives must perfectly meet.

Pope Francis, like the late Pope John Paul II, is a very warm, spontaneous and ''maka-masa'' celebrity. He has the tendency of breaking the security cordon and just go and approach the crowd and shake their hands, kiss babies and banter with the people. This could be the worst headache of his close-in security. The Pope himself, by his spontaneous approachability and warmth, can exacerbate the difficulties of his security operatives. Even the apostolic nunciature in Leon Guinto, where he will be staying, will face one of their most exacting task in all times. Indeed, what our country is facing in the next few days poses one of the most difficult challenges that we face in recent times.

We better remember that there is no room for the smallest mistake. Let us make it absolutely flawless and perfect. And we must have faith.  As the Bible says 365 times, let us not be afraid. Let us entrust to the Almighty the safety of our beloved Pope Francis.

God's protection, above all security measures, is what matters most.


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